August is peach season: Peach pie, peach cobbler, peach salsa, peach jam, peach ice cream, peach potatoes…. Okay, I’m getting a little ahead of myself.
The only downside to peaches (if there is one) is peeling them. It’s one of those tasks that can make you feel like a crazed homesteader — slaving over the sink with a paring knife staring in agony at the mountain of butchered fruit before you. I should know. I just received a giant box of fat, juicy peaches from the folks at the Washington State Fruit Commission – it’s raining peaches at our place! — so I’ve been madly putting some up while they’re still at the peak of freshness.
The easiest, least wasteful method for peeling peaches I have found is one I talk about in the canning cookbook I coauthored, Tart & Sweet (Rodale, 2011). Allow me to spell it out for you here in handy slideshow format. I also included a super easy recipe for homemade peach jam. Now step away from the paring knife…
Start with the Freshest Fruit 1 of 7
The fruit should be firm but with a slight give to the touch. Underripe peaches won't peel properly. Neither will overripe peaches.
Make an "X" in the Bottom 2 of 7
Turn the peach stem side down and make an X in the bottom with a knife. It doesn't have to be deep. A slight cut is fine.
Blanch the Peach in Boiling Water 3 of 7
Bring a pot of water to a boil. Using a pair of tongs, drop each peach into the bubbling water and allow to blanch for 15 to 30 seconds each. Any longer will cook the peach, ruining the texture and flavor. All you're trying to do is loosen the skin from the flesh. Remove the peaches from the water. When the peaches are cool enough to handle, gently peel the skins with your fingers.
Give Those Naked Peaches a Hit of Acid 4 of 7
Naked peaches quickly oxidize and turn brown. If you're making a peach pie or some other baked good, this isn't a big deal. But if you're making jam, syrup or salsa -- any dish in which color is important -- you'll want to keep the flesh bright and fresh looking. Preserve the color by dropping the peaches into an ice bath cut with 2 to 3 tablespoons bottled lemon juice or a 5 or 6 crushed up Vitamin C tablets. These acidifying agents prevent the flesh from turning brown.
A Super Easy Recipe for Peach Jam 5 of 7
With my peaches, I made an easy peach jam:
Into a large, wide bottomed pot or pan, add 3 pounds peeled, pitted and chopped peaches and 2 cups sugar. Cook over medium high heat until the peaches are quite broken down. When it's boiling, add 4 tablespoons bottled lemon juice, 1 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg. Reduce the heat to a simmer and allow to cook for 20 minutes. Cut the heat. Using an immersion blender, blend the jam until smooth. Turn the heat back up to medium high and stir in 1 packet of liquid pectin...
Check the Consistency 6 of 7
...and bring to a full boil for a good 6 minutes, stirring as you go. The consistency should be thick and spreadable and jammy.
Cut the heat again and taste. If it's too tart, add more sugar, keeping in mind that jam tastes sweeter as it cools. If it's too sweet, add more lemon juice. (I prefer a tarter taste so the ratios here reflect that.) Ladle into 6 8-ounce hot, sterilized jelly jars. See here for full canning instructions.
Slather and Enjoy 7 of 7